PROBABLY TEN YEARS AGO, I was an occasional correspondent with a guy doing a long stretch in an iso unit at Pelican Bay State Prison. He was confined to the “Security Housing Unit” on an allegation that he was a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, and had gotten an AVA from another prisoner. He wrote a good letter and was soon on our comp list. And he wrote a lot more letters that contained lots of interesting stuff about prison life, emphasizing that race-based prison affiliations are necessary for survival where he was.
FAST FORWARD to the Aryan Brotherhood guy mentioning that he and his comrades were great admirers of Nathan B. Forrest, the famous Confederate general who founded the Ku Klux Klan during the Reconstruction era following the Civil War. As it happened, I'd just read a Forrest biography where I learned that at the end of his life Forrest renounced his race views, declaring not only that he'd been wrong but that he was sorry he'd been wrong for so long. To say that Forrest was a tough guy doesn't begin to describe how tough he was; he wasn't a leader who stayed in the rear with the gear, having personally killed at least 50 enemy soldiers himself in up close and personal combat. (His son joined Pop's elite guerrilla force at age 15). He was a fierce, uncompromising man, but he was also a very intelligent man. He didn't do things half-way, so his dramatic and seemingly unlikely reversal of his views was all the more significant. Of all the Civil War generals I've read about, Forrest's life is the most interesting.
SO I WROTE to my AB correspondent with the news about Forrest as, in living fact, a model of ethnic reconciliation. The guy didn't believe me so I sent him the bio via Amazon. (Prisons won't accept books unless they come directly from the publisher because people outside try to smuggle drugs in in books.) He wrote back to say versions of “Well, I'll be darned.” I wrote back to say the problem with being a racist is that you're going to be wrong all the time, and if you cling to being wrong all the time you're just a nut, not some kind of noble race warrior. I don't know how that observation went over with him because he was moved and I lost track of him.
NATHAN B. FORREST has been much in the news this week as the focus of a Florida school board controversy. A school in Jacksonville is called Nathan B. Forrest High School. Black and white students want a name change, and the school board, citing a Civil War event called “The Pillow Massacre” as the primary reason, the second being Forrest's founding of the Klan, has agreed to a name change next school year. The Massacre and the founding of the Klan are complicated events, of course, and people would have to read the histories of them to make intelligent deductions about them and Forrest's role in them. But nowhere in all the accounts of the school name controversy was there any mention that this remarkable man had changed his mind about race.
THE FORT BRAGG PLANNING COMMISSION, Derek Hoyle dissenting, has denied a use permit to convert the Affinito Family's building on South Franklin Street to a Dollar Tree store. Neighbors of the property were vehemently opposed. Robert Affinito told the Fort Bragg Advocate, “It's turned my property useless. If they don't want retail here, they should rezone it.”
THERE WAS FUEL AND DEBRIS but no cash spilled Wednesday about noon when a Brinks truck turned over on turn in Highway 20 not far east out of Fort Bragg. The driver and the armed guard were not injured beyond minor cuts and bruises.
FEDERAL COURT ALLOWS DESTRUCTIVE WILLITS BYPASS PROJECT TO MOVE FORWARD
SAN FRANCISCO— A federal judge ruled today that the California Department of Transportation’s environmental review and permits for the Willits Bypass were adequate and the agency can continue construction of a four-lane freeway around the community of Willits in Mendocino County. The disappointing ruling comes despite the fact that construction has destroyed and damaged sensitive wetlands, the headwaters of salmon-bearing streams, oak woodlands and endangered species habitats.
Earlier this year Caltrans began cutting mature oak forests and clearing riparian vegetation along critical salmon streams in Little Lake Valley, and began extensive draining and filling of wetlands, despite violations and improper issuance of federal and county quarry and fill permits.
“It’s disappointing that the court accepted Caltrans’ inadequate review and flawed rationale for the purpose and need of this project,” said Aruna Prabhala, staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We disagree with the determination that the environmental impacts of the Willits Bypass project are not significant - Little Lake Valley is being devastated by the construction. Unfortunately this is just one of the irrational and expensive highway projects Caltrans is pushing throughout the state that will cause extensive environmental damage without solving traffic or safety concerns.”
“This is a painful lesson in how Caltrans operates with impunity to justify building unnecessary and oversized projects,” said Ellen Drell of the Willits Environmental Center. “Caltrans made false claims to permitting agencies and the courts saying that only a four-lane freeway bypass, with two enormous interchanges, would solve the traffic congestion in Willits, when smaller alternatives would have done the job.”
“The irregularities of the review and permitting process for this massive project have undermined the legitimacy of the Willits Bypass project,” said Gary Graham Hughes of EPIC. “It is a disappointment that the court did not hold Caltrans accountable for playing fast and loose with the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act, two of our nation’s bedrock environmental laws.”
Conservation groups sued Caltrans and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in May 2012 for violations of the National Environmental Policy Act and Clean Water Act in approving the bypass project. Caltrans refused to consider two-lane alternatives and new information about lower traffic volumes, and failed to conduct adequate environmental review for substantial design changes resulting in more severe environmental impacts. Local residents have protested the destruction, occupied the construction site, chained themselves to equipment and sat in trees to stop the project.
Caltrans and the Federal Highway Administration are pursuing a bypass on Highway 101 around Willits, supposedly to ease traffic congestion. The agencies insist on a four-lane freeway and have refused to consider or analyze equally effective two-lane alternatives or in-town solutions. The project will construct a six-mile, four-lane bypass including several bridges over creeks and roads, a mile-long viaduct spanning the floodplain, and two interchanges.
Although Caltrans documents show that traffic projected to use the bypass is not enough to warrant a four-lane freeway, the agency unilaterally discarded all non-freeway or two-lane alternatives. New information shows that Highway 101 traffic volumes through Willits are below what Caltrans projected when it determined a four-lane freeway was needed. Caltrans has used unrealistic traffic and growth projections in several projects around the state to justify large highway widening projects.
Bypass construction will harm wildlife habitat and biological resources in Little Lake Valley, including more than 80 acres of wetlands and more than 400 acres of farmland, and requires the largest wetlands fill permit in Northern California in the past 50 years. It will damage stream and riparian habitat for chinook and coho salmon and steelhead trout in three streams converging into Outlet Creek, harm the rare plant Baker’s meadowfoam, and destroy increasingly scarce oak woodlands.
A statewide coalition of conservation organizations is challenging irresponsible and damaging highway-widening projects around the state by Caltrans, and calling attention to the agency’s pervasive refusal to consider reasonable alternatives to massive highway projects, shoddy environmental review, lack of transparency, reliance on flawed data and disregard for public input. The Caltrans Watch coalition aims to put the brakes on Caltrans’ wasteful spending, institutionalized disregard of environmental regulations designed to protect natural resources, and pattern of refusal to address local concerns.
Gary Graham Hughes, Executive Director
EPIC -- the Environmental Protection Information Center
Office: 145 G St., Suite A, Arcata, CA 95521
Like EPIC on Facebook
AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: SIX THINGS TO KNOW
by Bill Sokol
There is so much political noise about health care reform, starting with whether you call it the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare that it's difficult to figure out just what the law actually provides. Here's a simple list of what every person in California needs to know about the law and his/her rights under this law:
1. Every citizen and legal resident must have health insurance in 2014 or pay a penalty.
2. If your employer already provides “minimum value” “affordable” health insurance for you, you don't have to worry about all of this — you're covered. "Minimum value" means the insurance pays at least 60 percent of the cost of benefits (what's called a "60/40," or a "bronze," policy). "Affordable" means it costs you no more than 9.5% of your income for your own coverage.
3. If your employer does not provide this coverage, or if you are unemployed, or just employed occasionally or part time, and you expect to earn less than $15,856 in the year 2014, you are entitled to free Medi-Cal. You can sign up for it with Medi-Cal, or you can apply at www.coveredca.com, or you can just call (800) 300-1506.
4. If you earn more than $15,856 but less than $46,000 yourself, or up to about $94,000 for a family of four, you may be entitled to tax credits and subsidies to help pay for health care insurance. You can sign up for subsidized health care insurance at www.coveredca.com, or you can get help with this at (800) 300-1506.
5. Or, if you are one of the 2% of Americans who had substandard policies, and therefore received letters saying your insurance policy was being canceled, you may also be eligible for these subsidies and credits; or you can purchase a new, legal policy from the insurance agent/broker/company of your choice. But these cancellation letters only affected people who had purchased insurance that did not meet the standards for "minimum value" insurance (with no annual limits, no lifetime limits, etc.).
6. Bottom line: if you have any questions about what you are entitled to, call (800) 300-1506. That's the toll-free line for the California State Healthcare Exchange - there are hundreds of people on duty, speaking several languages, to answer your questions. Or, you can see it all at www.coveredca.com.
Whenever the partisan shouting about this law gets too loud, too confusing, or plain too bothersome, just refer back to this list. The law is definitely complex, but these six points will take you a long way toward knowing what your rights are under the law here in California.
(Bill Sokol is a Bay Area benefits attorney and a lecturer at San Francisco State University.)
PROBATION LIKELY FOR UKIAH FATHER-CHILD ABUSER
by Tiffany Revelle
A Ukiah father no longer faces a possible life sentence or a charge that he put his infant son in a coma earlier this year after the prosecution reconsidered the charge and offered a plea deal that would allow him to spend the next five years on probation instead.
Daniel Camara, 25, was originally charged with assault resulting in a coma due to brain injury of a child younger than 8 years old. The baby boy, who was 6 months old at the time of the incident, has since recovered, prompting the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office to amend the charge to child abuse resulting in the child's hospitalization.
"The medical records were voluminous. We thought this case was much more serious at the outset. The child has clearly recovered," said Assistant District Attorney Paul Sequeira, who prosecuted the case, explaining that the baby's mother brought him to court one day, and the child's recovery was obvious.
The medical reports originally indicated the child was "in grave condition," Sequeira said, noting that the long-term brain damage originally believed to have stemmed from the incident was not found.
Camara pleaded guilty Wednesday in Mendocino County Superior Court to the new charge, which carries a possible sentence range of two, four or six years.
"Even if I had pushed for prison time, he has no prior record, and he probably would have gotten a two-year term," Sequeira said.
Because of the way credits are awarded for time spent in jail, Sequeira said, Camara would only need to spend a year in jail to get credit for a two-year sentence. He has already spent eight months in jail, and would be released without supervision after serving the rest of that time.
Sequeira proposed instead that Camara be on supervised probation for five years, with a term requiring him to spend a year in jail. His accumulated credits would allow him to be released because he's already served more than half of that. The probation terms would also require Camara to attend a yearlong child abuse treatment program.
"That's better for the safety of the community, and it's better than putting the family through that and then having him get out of jail with no supervision," Sequeira said.
Camara's 6-month-old son was admitted at Ukiah Valley Medical Center with a high fever on the night of April 5, then flown to the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center for advanced treatment when the baby's condition worsened the next day.
Camara's Ukiah defense attorney, Duncan James, said previously that the baby didn't arrive at the hospital in a coma, but was given an injection to induce a comatose state at the hospital, presumably for transport to UCSF.
Confirming UVMC medical personnel's suspicions, specialists at UCSF Medical Center confirmed the baby had injuries apparently caused by physical abuse, according to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office, and found several older injuries that were also consistent with physical abuse.
James said previously that the baby was born several months premature, and "had significant, major medical issues since birth."
Judge Ann Moorman noted that if Camara violates his probation terms, he could go to prison for up to six years.
James noted in court that the child abuse charge to which Camara pleaded guilty is a "wobbler," which can be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor. If Camara completes his five-year probation, he can apply to have it reduced to a misdemeanor on his record, James said.
Camara is due back in court Jan. 28 for sentencing.
(Courtesy the Ukiah Daily Journal.)
ED NOTE: DA David Eyster worked in Duncan James' law office before being elected DA. Just sayin', but if you get caught abusing your infant, James, himself a former Mendo DA, would seem to be the guy you want representing you in negotiations with the Mendocino County DA. No need to fear judicial intervention, either.
(Courtesy, The Ukiah Daily Journal)
MEDIATION FOR COUNTY LABOR NEGOTIATIONS FRUITLESS
by Tiffany Revelle
Labor negotiations between the county of Mendocino administration and the union that represents the majority of its workers got nowhere during state mediation, and will now move to a fact-finding phase.
A state mediator held a meeting with county administrators and Service Employees International Union, Local 1021, which represents about 700 of the county's employees, as part of the process through which the parties were going after the county declared impasse earlier this year.
"We were hopeful that the third-party mediation would calm things down and create an environment where the parties could talk without the unnecessary positioning and posturing that was going on through the strike," said county Assistant CEO Kyle Knopp.
He referred to a one-day strike the union held Sept. 24, when county workers set up picket lines at three visible areas in Ukiah and in Willits and Fort Bragg.
At issue was a 10-percent pay cut many county employees had taken voluntarily for years before the last contract with SEIU, signed two years ago, made the cut permanent. Now that the county's budget has a nearly $9 million reserve, union members want the county to restore those wages.
The fact-finding phase is a "non-binding arbitration," according to Knopp, who explained that the county and SEIU will split the cost of a state fact-finder -- an attorney experienced in mediation. Fact-finding is a required step in labor mediation procedures when the parties are at impasse that was only recently extended to counties and cities.
For the second consecutive negotiation cycle, the county and union both filed claims against each other with the state Public Employment Relations Board claiming illegal practices in labor negotiations. The county and SEIU filed claims with the state Public Employment Relations Board in 2011 and again this year, each claiming the other party used unfair practices.
(Courtesy the Ukiah Daily Journal.)
JEFF COSTELLO'S TOP TEN BOOKS
Anybody Can Do Anything - Betty MacDonald
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - Hunter S. Thompson
Rosy Crucifixion trilogy - Henry Miller
Lame Deer Seeker of Visions - John (Fire) Lame Deer
The Book (on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are) - Alan Watts
The Plague and I - Betty MacDonald
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Libra - Don DeLillo
COUPLA MORE ADDITIONS to Best Books from The AVA Editor:
• Homage To Catalonia by George Orwell, a first hand account of Orwell's experience during the Spanish Civil War.
• Politics and the English Language by Orwell. How to keep your bullshit detector up and running while reading political prose. This essay should be required reading.
• Trampling Out the Vintage by Frank Bardacke, a history of the United Farm Workers plus moving stories of the people who feed America.
* * *
Trampling Out the Vintage by Frank Bardacke – A Review
The life and times of a charismatic labor leader
It wasn't just British trade unions that seemed to have a death wish in the late 70s and early 80s. The brightest and bravest of the American unions, United Farm Workers, whose struggle against inhuman conditions in Californian farms inspired a generation, tore itself to pieces. At its 1981 conference, some delegates were found to be hiding handguns under their coats, and when one Mario Bustamente rose to oppose the executive, shouts of "death to Bustamente" were heard.
Frank Bardacke was a player in all this, which doesn't necessarily make him the best person to write about it. Worse: he was not a typical fruit-picker but a young radicalwho started his political activism in the anti-war movement at Berkeley in the 60s. In 1971 he took a job cutting celery in the Salinas Valley and worked in the fields as part of an otherwise Mexican work force, becoming a crew shop steward and, in the down season, teaching agricultural history at the University of California.
Such people in the 70s were often the most doctrinally rigid trade unionists, and it came as no surprise that he has serious criticisms of César Chávez, founder of the United Farm Workers, whom I thought of as a great American hero when I was head of communications for the agricultural workers union here, and whom the UFW still reveres.
Bardacke thinks Chávez and the UFW leadership and staff were too detached from the membership. It's the charge that used to be levelled against union officials by the Socialist Workers Party here, but was worse in Chávez's case, Bardacke says, because the UFW had a source of income separate from union dues: donations from wealthy individuals, other unions and church groups, and income generated by its campaign to boycott Californian grapes. This, on Bardacke's analysis, explains why its 60s success had fallen away by 1981. He puts the union's achievements down to grassroots action, and thinks too much emphasis has been placed on the leader.
There's a lot more to this book than 60s purism. Bardacke writes movingly and well of the brutal treatment of Mexican farm workers in California, and of the experiences that formed Chávez's beliefs. Chávez grew up in Arizona, where the family home was swindled from them by the people Mexicans in the US call Anglos. His father agreed to clear 80 acres of land in exchange for the deed to 40 acres that adjoined the home. The agreement was broken. A lawyer advised Chávez senior to borrow money and buy the land, but when he couldn't pay the interest on the loan, the lawyer bought the land and sold it back to the original owner, who bulldozed their home.
"César Chávez was 12 years old in 1939 when he and his brother Richard watched the tractor destroy their childhood," writes Bardacke, and he quotes Chávez himself: "Richard and I were watching on higher ground. We kept cussing the driver, but he didn't hear us, our words were lost in the sound of tearing timbers and growling motor. We didn't blame the grower, we blamed the poor tractor driver."
The family took the only work they could get, in the fields of California. "Now home, or what passed for it, was the family's 1927 Studebaker. He slept in a series of tents, shacks, hovels. He travelled among strangers in unknown places, victim of a new set of rules. When he went to the store, he was cheated. He was beaten by older boys."
It was the making of a man whose driving ambition was to build a better, fairer world. The first target of the UFW was the, an arrangement between the US and Mexican governments that lasted from 1942 to 1964, and under which five million Mexican men were contracted to work in the US fields under strict conditions that limited their freedom of movement and kept their wages artificially low.
Bardacke is a talented writer, burning with rage against injustice, and his subject is one of the most attractive and charismatic figures US politics has produced. And yet what comes out – because Bardacke was himself so involved in the detail – is a great slab of a book, 836 pages long, which goes down the twists and turns of every internal dispute in order to pin blame on those the author considers responsible.
In late 70s and early 80s the unions turned inward, eating their own flesh with horrible relish and paving the way for Thatcher and Reagan to destroy their movement. Now they are applying the same doctrinaire cannibalism to their history. It is as true here as in the US – I have written the history of the 1984-85 miners' strike, and have the scars to prove it.
(Courtesy, the Guardian of London)
CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT HANGING IN THERE
by Glenn Mollette
A lot of people have given up. My father fell off a barn when I was about thirteen years old. He cracked his vertebrae and missed about six months of work. There was no unemployment insurance, or federal relief money. Everything became very lean as life was put on hold in hopes of better days. By Christmas my father was getting around on crutches. We had a Christmas tree but I dared not ask for anything for Christmas. I knew we didn't have any money. On Christmas Eve we had a family gathering and we had food to eat. There actually was some exchanging of gifts and my mother handed me a small wrapped box. I was shocked. I anticipated nothing. Opening the present I found a simple watch. I would guess it cost eight to ten dollars at the most. It might as well have been a Rolex. I was so surprised and couldn't believe my parents had bought me something for Christmas. I don't know how they did it. A couple of months later my father was back to work and times became better as we hung in there and survived difficult times. The Christmas gift is stuck in my head as being one of the all time best. The gift was simple but great. Most of us know about a difficult time in life. We've all been there in some way. Maybe you are there now. Possibly your heath is not so great and you are hoping for better days. You may be unemployed and you don't know how you are going to pay all the bills. Often life is never exactly as we had hoped or planned. Every year of life is a little different and if you are reading this you still have hope. One of the keys to a better tomorrow is hanging in there today. It's easy to give up. Life can be discouraging. I heard an old preacher say one time, "The test of those who love God most are the ones at their post, when all the others have walked away." Today...hang in there and remember what Christmas is about, "1... Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." Luke 2: 10 - 11.
Glenn Mollette is an American columnist read in all fifty states. Contact him at GMollette@aol.com. He is the author of American Issues and numerous other books.
INVEST IN PEOPLE, NOT WAR
Let Them Hear the Rumble!
by RALPH NADER
Earlier this month, a delegation of activists took to Capitol Hill to demand a decrease in the massive, out-of-control military budget. As millions of Americans struggle with inadequate health care, low wages, deteriorating public services and uncertainty about their futures as the wage gap between the wealthy elite and the working poor widens, billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars are pouring into the coffers of the Department of Defense every year. The Pentagon budget currently makes up half of the U.S. government’s entire operating budget. Estimated to be around $716 billion in 2013, the U.S. defense budget is greater than the defense budgets of the next ten highest spending nations combined. The gathering was, appropriately, scheduled on International Human Rights Day.
Some of the groups present were: Roots Action, the Hunger Action Network of New York State, Code Pink, Green Shadow Cabinet, Coalition Against Nukes, Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, U.S. Labor Against the War and many more. See their open letter to members of Congress and President Obama here.
The consortium of activists’ are asking Congress to slash the bloated military budget and use the significant savings to enhance critical social programs that actually help people, things like food stamps, Social Security and improved full Medicare-for-all healthcare. They also suggested a massive public works agenda that creates good paying un-exportable jobs in every community around the country — jobs that include clean, renewable energy for the future. And what of America’s crumbling infrastructure? Our clinics, roads, schools, bridges, libraries, public transit, public water and sewage systems and national parks are in dire need of repair and modernization. The savings from defense spending could be used to repair infrastructure — much of which was a product of FDR’s New Deal in the 1930s — and ensure a cleaner, safer, more prosperous America.
These are proposals that would benefit our citizenry rather then ravage and destroy countries abroad whose citizens far too regularly become victims in the U.S.’s perpetual military adventures.
The American people have long been subject to fear mongering and propaganda-spreading about alleged foreign threats to their safety. The blowbacks are costly. This campaign for perpetual war has significantly benefited corporate contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Halliburton who reap the massive rewards of a defense budget many times greater than that of any other country on Earth. Consider this — the Navy’s latest aircraft carrier currently under construction, the USS Gerald R. Ford, is expected to cost $12.8 billion. That’s a billion dollars more than the current annual budget of the entire Internal Revenue Service. The United States already has eleven aircraft carriers, all of which outmatch every other foreign naval vessel on the sea. The IRS budget, on the other hand, is too inadequate to properly police tax evaders who reportedly cost the government $300 billion in losses every year. According to a 2011 report from The Motley Fool: “Tax evasion in the last decade cost an amount roughly equivalent to the Bush tax cuts, the Obama stimulus, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan … combined.”
Mark Dunlea, Executive Director of the Hunger Action Network of NYS, who is a key figure in organizing the campaign said: “Cutting the military budget in half would reduce it to where it was before 9/11 — when it was way too high. The amount of money spent on theUS military is a crime against humanity. It steals our children’s future and it oppresses people across our planet. We shouldn’t be cutting SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] funds to feed our children and seniors while wasting tens of billions of dollars to build planes and tanks that are often mothballed in desert parking lots soon after they roll off the assembly line.”
President Eisenhower warned of the dangers of the “military industrial complex” in his farewell address in 1961. Now, over fifty years later, we see the result of unchecked, reckless spending on costly, unnecessary high-tech weapons of mass destruction — and the disturbing need to find uses for them. On December 12, a drone strike in Yemenreportedly killed at least 13 people traveling in a wedding procession. A Yemeni government official has claimed that the wedding convoy contained members of Al Qaeda — although earlier reports claimed the convoy was targeted mistakenly.
Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin recently posed the question: “Do we want to feed hungry people or feed the weapons industry?”
The defense budget – which the Government Accountability Office of Congress deems “un-auditable” – is loaded with waste, redundancy, corruption, cost overruns, complex billing fraud and poor quality control. Let us heed Eisenhower’s warning at long last and use our nation’s wealth to make significant investments in a future that benefits people. (Read Eisenhower’s famous 1953 “Cross of Iron” speech on this matter.)
At the least, each person can do his or her part by reaching your Senators and Representatives with your outcries. Call the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121.
(Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.)